Spotlight on HSPS: Sociology
Human, Social, and Political Sciences (HSPS) at Cambridge offers a unique range of related disciplines, which can be studied in many combinations, or with a concentration on a single discipline: you can work on Politics and International Relations, Social Anthropology, Biological Anthropology, Archaeology and / or Sociology. Many (or all) of these subjects will be new to you, so how do you know what's involved?
Sociology is the study of modern societies and how they are changing today. Ever wonder why nationalism is such a powerful force in the modern world? Why there are protests, riots, and uprisings? Why Europe is in crisis? Why politicians are not trusted? Why Africa is so poor? Why racism persists? Why same-sex marriage causes such controversy? How globalization is changing our lives? Whether societies could ever be more just? Then Sociology is the subject for you.
- Do some introductory reading:
ELECTION - The Cambridge Politics Podcast
Spot the First Minister?! Nicola Sturgeon campaigning in Edinburgh on 3 April 2015. Image credit: hockadilly
Can democracy adapt to our strained political system? Who (if anyone) will ‘win’ in 2015? What can the lessons of the past teach us about the future?
David Runciman, Head of the Department of Politics and International Studies here in Cambridge, puts these questions and more to philosophers, historians, scientists, and political thinkers in a weekly podcast in the run-up to the general election.
In recent weeks, he's talked to:
The ELECTION team publish a new episode every Wednesday.
Oxford and Cambridge Student Conference in Newcastle
Student conferences are a good opportunity to find out more from subject specialists, students and admissions staff
On 18 March 2015 there will be a free Oxford and Cambridge Student Conference in Newcastle (very close to the train station) for students in Year 12.
The conference covers courses available at Oxford and Cambridge (sessions led by subject specialists), Oxford and Cambridge Explained talks, and plenty of opportunities to chat with current students at both universities and find out what studying at Oxford and Cambridge is really like. You will need a teacher to book a ticket for you if you would like to attend - do read the information on the Oxford and Cambridge Student Conference website and ask a teacher to book your place.
Places are also available at similar conferences in Lisburn, Edinburgh, Birmingham, and Surrey.
tracking our migratory birds to Africa and back
19 Feb: BBC Question Time in Stockton-on-Tees
On Thursday 19 February, BBC Question Time will be broadcast from Teeside High School in Eaglescliffe, Stockton-on-Tees.
Question Time is a current affairs discussion programme, which aims to give people an opportunity to scrutinise directly senior politicians and others who exercise power and influence at a UK level. Did you know that more younger people watch Question Time than any other political programme on British television?
The guests on the 19 February panel include former Conservative Deputy Prime Minister, Lord Heseltine; Scotland's First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon MSP, Labour's Shadow Energy Secretary, Caroline Flint MP; and local businessman and star of Dragon's Den, Duncan Bannatyne. If you would like to apply for tickets, you can do this through the online form on the BBC website.
Previous Question Time discussions are available to watch on BBC iplayer.
Economics essay competition
The Royal Economic Society runs an annual competition for students studying Economics at school, with questions based on key elements of your syllabus.
You may find the questions set for this year's competition interesting to think about:
- "Countries like Greece caused the Eurozone crisis by running up too much debt, so it is only fair that they should bear most of the burden of fixing it." Discuss.
- Should the Government support manufacturing? If so, how?
- Should raising GDP be the primary objective of economic policy?
- "The rising gap between rich and poor is not just bad for society, it is bad for growth." Discuss.
- Should "fracking" be allowed? If so, who should benefit?
- "It is immoral for the drug companies to charge large sums for drugs that are cheap to manufacture." Discuss.
- "High saving promotes faster growth. So having more savers in the global economy should be good for our long term prosperity."
- "Does the economic case favour a new airport runway at Heathrow, Gatwick or elsewhere?"
You may also find it useful to look at the essay titles and winning entries from previous years (bottom of the page).
If you are studying Economics and are interested in entering an essay for this competition, do ensure that you read the full details and entry criteria on the Royal Economic Society website before you start work. The deadline for entry is Monday 30 June 2015.
AntarcticGlaciers.org is a very useful and interesting website on the the science of Antarctic glaciology written by Dr Bethan Davies from Royal Holloway, University of London. Here is the introduction:
Antarctic glaciers are beautiful and awe-inspiring. They affect us through their connections with the ocean and sea level, and environmental change is having rapid consequences in Antarctica.
Antarctica is the world’s largest ice sheet, covering ~14,000,000 km2. Much of the ice sheet surface lies above 3000 m above sea level. This massive thickness of ice drowns whole mountain ranges, and numerous volcanoes exist underneath the icey exterior. It’s the world’s fifth largest continent, and it is, on average, the highest and coldest continent. Antarctica also provides a unique record of the Earth’s past climate, through the geomorphological record of glacier moraines, through ice cores, through deep sea sediment cores, and through past records of sea level rise.
If you would like to find out more about this fascinating topic, do explore the AntarcticGlaciers.org website, which includes information about different types of glacier, ice shelves, and ice streams as well as the section on glaciers and climate. There is a lot of material that you'll enjoy browsing, and if you are taking A level Geography, this section helps you to find the relevant material for different parts of your course. You can also ask questions here.
More Year 12 Saturday Masterclasses open for booking!
Booking has opened for more Saturday Masterclasses in Cambridge for Year 12 students. These events provide you with an opportunity to explore topics of interest beyond what is covered within your school syllabus, and offer the chance to experience typical undergraduate teaching at Cambridge.
- Modern and Medieval Languages
- Philosophy and Theology
- Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Celtic
- Politics and International Relations
- Genetics and Biochemistry
For details and booking, please see the Cambridge admissions website.
Legal History: 1215 and all that
Magna Carta, 1215. Image credit: anselor
"To no one will we sell, to no one deny, or delay right or justice."
This week, the British Library marked the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta by bringing together the four remaining original documents for the first time. Radio 4's Law in Action recorded a special programme at the exhibition. Presenter Joshua Rosenberg asked a former Lord Chief Justice, a current lawyer, and the Head of Mediaeval Manuscripts at the British Library:
- how much of our current law actually comes from the Magna Carta?
- how much of its legacy is little more than myth?
- to what extent are the protections attributed to Magna Carta under threat?
How can legal history enrich our knowledge and understanding of the law? Roman Law has been taught at Cambridge for over seven hundred years. Indeed, Civil (Roman) Law I is a compulsory paper for all our first years. Dr. Matthew Dyson explains why it remains important and offers a sample supervision sheet. Second and third years can choose to take a further paper in legal history.
Education at Cambridge
Education Faculty, University of Cambridge. Image credit: Steve Day
Cambridge is one of only a few universities to offer a degree in Education as an academic discipline. In the course of three years you explore Education as a broad social science, tackling its history, philosophy, psychology, and sociology. You combine your studies in Education with another subject, choosing from Biological or Physical Sciences, English, English and Drama, Modern and Medieval Languages, Classics, Geography, History, Music, or Religious Studies. Whilst the Education degree may be a route into teaching, educational psychology, research, policy, or publishing, it also opens up a wide range of career paths outside of Education. King's doesn't offer the Education degree, but you can apply to study it at most Cambridge colleges.
Saturday Masterclasses with places still available
There are still places available at the following Year 12 Saturday Masterclasses in Cambridge:
Saturday 7 February:
Saturday 14 February:
Saturday 21 February:
Ful details and booking are available on the Cambridge Admissions website.
Law Essay Competition
Trinity College has an annual Robert Walker essay competition open to students in Year 12 or Year 13 (the final two years of school).
The title set for this year's competition is:
"Should people be able to sell their bodily organs (e.g., their kidney(s) or liver)?"
If working on this question appeals to you, do ensure that you read the competition details on the Trinity College website. The deadline for entries is Monday 20 April 2015.
Essay competitions can be a good opportunity to get your teeth into an interesting and relevant question and to develop your research and argument skills. You will see in the competition details that the assessors will be looking at a range of factors, including how well your argument is sustained, the quality of your language, and how well you have used appropriate supporting material and facts in evidence for your arguments. Of course, these are questions it is worth asking yourself about all of your written work, whether for a competition or not!
Year 11 and Year 12 Subject Taster events at Newcastle University
Booking is open for Newcastle University's Discover More events on Wednesday 11 March and Wednesday 25 March 2015.
If you are in Year 11 or Year 12, these events give you an opportunity to find out more about what studying your subject at university level is like, as well as gaining insights into future career possibilities.
Please see the information on Newcastle University website (which includes a link to the application form). If you would like to request a place, you must submit your application by Friday 13 February 2015.
Holocaust Memorial Day 2015: Keeping the Memory Alive
Today is Holocaust Memorial Day, which remembers the victims of genocide across time and countries. 27 January marks the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest of the Nazi death camps. 2015 is especially significant, since it is the 70th anniversary since the liberation of Auschwitz and the 20th anniversary of the genocide in Srebenica, Bosnia. This year's theme, Keeping the Memory Alive, asks us to reflect on the relationship between history and memory: how does one alter the other? What does it mean to memorialise the past and how shall we do it?
The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust defines genocide and documents and commemorates the following cases:
Young Hartlepudlians will be Keeping the Memory Alive with a memorial at Avenue Ballroom in Lauder Street from 6.30pm to 8.30pm on Tuesday 27 January. The event is free and open to all, but booking is required, so please contact Beth Storey on 01429 523900.
The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust's Youth Champion Programme allows you to further research and reflect on the Holocaust and subsequent genocides and supports you in organising an event of your own.
The Anne Frank Trust UK remembers the Holocaust, and challenges prejudice and reduces hatred today, by drawing on Anne Frank's life and diary. You can visit the Trust's History for Today exhibition in York Minster from 26 January to 1 February.
BBC Taking Liberties Season
The Houses of Parliament, Westminster. Image credit: Treye Rice
2015 marks the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta. The BBC is leading commemorations with its Taking Liberties season of programmes on Britain's democracy: past, present, and future.
Ask yourself: are the democratic freedoms manifest in the Magna Carta or the de Montfort Parliament real or imagined, either then or now?
Year 12 Residential visits at Robinson and Trinity Hall Colleges
All students at Cambridge are both part of the University and part of one of the Colleges. You can read about this collegiate system on the university website, and each College also has its own website, like King's.
Would you like to find out more about living and studying in a Cambridge College? There are places available on Year 12 (or equivalent) residential visits at Robinson College and at Trinity Hall College. Visiting any College will give you a good sense of what being part of a collegiate university is like and what is most important to you when you later choose a College. It will also help you to develop your course interests and find out more about how you will be taught at Cambridge.
Year 12 Sutton Trust Summer Schools
Booking is open for the Year 12 Sutton Trust Summer Schools in Cambridge! These are very popular subject-specific residentials in July and August for students in Year 12 (or equivalent) at state-maintained schools in the UK. The programme includes lectures, seminars, discussion groups, practical work and social activities, as well as the opportunity to meet current staff and students and to live in a Cambridge College. The residentials are free of charge.
For full information and booking, please go to the Cambridge Admissions website.
The Sutton Trust Summer Schools provide a very useful insight into what it is like to study at Cambridge so do apply for a place if you are interested. Equally, please be aware that we receive far more applications than we have places available. It is important to read the detailed criteria for selection.
The application deadline is 9 March 2015. Good luck!
Year 12 Subject Masterclasses in Cambridge
Subject-specific sample lectures are available. Credit: Horia Varlan
Booking is open for some subject masterclasses organised by the central Cambridge Admissions Office. These masterclasses take place on Saturdays in February and are for students in Year 12 (the penultimate year of school).
The subjects are:
- Genetics and Biochemistry
- Modern and Medieval Languages
- Philosophy and Theology
...and if the course you want to study is not in that list, don't worry because further masterclasses will be announced later this year.
For more detail, please read the information about Subject Masterclasses on the Cambridge Admissions website. If you would like to book a place, he link is available in the table on that page.
OpenCampus at the University of Hull
The University of Hull's OpenCampus programme offers an informal and friendly way for you to learn at your local university.
- Drop into the Culture Café, which this term is focusing on Literature and Creative Writing. On Saturday 6 December at 11am, Dr. Daniel Weston, Lecturer in Twentieth-Century English Literature, is discussing 'Poetry for the City? Philip Larkin and Others.' This is part of the North and South Project, a collaboration betwen the University of Hull and the University of Southampton to explore what unites and divides their respective port cities. Next term's programme for the Culture Café is already available here.
- Join a Tea-Time Talk, a series which launched this term around the theme of Society and Culture. On Tuesday 2 December at 6.15pm, Dr. Simon Green, Senior Lecturer in Community Justice and Criminology, explores 'Deviancy, destitution and moral degeneracy.' Why, he asks, do politicians and commentators increasingly explain crime and disorder with reference to moral character, instead of socio-economic conditions?
Places are limited, so booking is essential. To find out more and book a place, please contact the OpenCampus team directly.
Excellence Hub for Yorkshire and Humberside
University taster events show you what studying a subject in depth at university-level would be like. Credit: John Robinson
The Excellence Hub for Yorkshire and Humberside is an exciting collaboration between the universities of Hull, Leeds, Sheffield and York to provide enrichment events through the year for students who have been identified as high achieving by their schools or colleges.
Look at the list of upcoming Subject Taster Events.
The events are open to students across the UK. You can apply to attend the events as an individual, or one of your teachers can apply for a group from your school to attend. Priority for places is given to students who meet one of the criteria below, then the remaining places are given to students who do not meet the criteria. Some events are for Year 12 students, others are for younger students.
- eligible to receive free school meals.
- no history of higher education (studying at university level) in your immediate family (including any siblings).
- living in local authority care.
Do keep an eye on this project. Further events will be advertised on the Excellence Hub website in due course.
Year 12 Politics and International Relations Essay Competition
Here is some food for thought from an essay competition set by Corpus Christi College:
- Is economic globalisation helping or hurting democracy in the world?
- Are most citizens knowledgeable enough to vote in their own interest at the ballot box?
- Should democracies try to promote regional stability in their foreign policies even if that means supporting authorotarian regimes?
- Is it desirable to limit the effects of money on politics even if doing so inhibits freedom of political expression?
- Would eliminating all nuclear weapons make the world a safer or more dangerous place?
Which question do you find most interesting? What approach would you take? Can you think of /research some examples to draw on?
If you are in Year 12 (the penultimate year of school in the UK) and would like to enter the competition itself, please see the details (the deadline is 15 February 2015). Further essay competitions are available in Law, English, Theology and Computer Science.
Preparing for interviews
We recommend that you explore topics that interest you further (there are a lot of ways to do this).
We interview most (but not all) students who apply for a place at Cambridge. The interviews are with subject specialists who ask you academic questions to explore your potential for the course you have applied for.
How do you prepare for a Cambridge interview? Here are some tips:
Long-term preparation (before you apply)
- If you enjoy learning, the good news is that you shouldn't need to change anything significant to prepare for interviews at Cambridge. The most important thing you can do is to develop your academic interests (which you're likely to find that you've already been doing!)
- Find a Cambridge course that genuinely interests you so that you have natural curiosity and enjoy developing your skills and finding out more.
- Look at the resources section on the relevant subject page for specific suggestions (e.g. Engineering), but also feel free to follow your own interests or use other resources and books that you find helpful.
- Understand that Cambridge interviewers will be interested in your academic interests and how you think and work, not only what you know. The interviews are academic interviews, designed to test this. This film shows what Cambridge interviews are about.
Short-term preparation (after you have applied)
- See this advice and our interview guidelines.
- Watch Film 1 and Film 2 to get a sense of what will happen if you are invited for interview.
- Carry on developing your academic interests. Use the resources section on the relevant subject page if you are looking for suggestions.
- Don't neglect your normal school work - if you are currently at school, we know how busy you are, and you can develop your interests within your school curriculum by putting your best into your homework assignments. Remember that most of your interview preparation has already been done at this stage.
- Don't worry excessively about the interview itself. Know that the interviews are not a test of how good you are at being interviewed (we're not looking for polish or perfection). They are about your subject(s), so the only way you can improve your chances is to carry on focusing on your academic work and interests.
- Try to trust your interviewers if you can! They are all teachers and they want you to achieve. They will know how to ask further questions to tease what they need out of you, and they know that interviewees are nervous so they are looking for raw ability and academic commitment, not perfection.
Cambridge Subject Films
Are you exploring the courses available at Cambridge? One way to get a quick overview is to look at some of the subject films.
The films are only short, but they explain the structure and opportunities in each course, show you some of the faculty facilities, and have current students giving their views and reasons for choosing each subject, tips for applying from the lecturers, and information about what students go on to do when they graduate.
You may also find the advice about choosing a subject useful, and there are lists of transferable skills for most courses (or options within courses). These lists set out the advantages that each subject gives you for your future career.
The most important question to ask yourself, is what would you enjoy studying in depth?
Cambridge Year 12 Law Conference
Lectures take place in the Faculty of Law.
Credit: Chris Huang
The annual Year 12 Cambridge Law Conference will take place from 16-19 March 2015.
Students on the conference have accommodation in one of the Cambridge Colleges. The mornings will be lectures with Cambridge University lecturers and speakers from the legal profession, then in the afternoons there are workshops run by City Law Firms and Barristers Chambers, helping you to develop relevant skills such as debating, advocay and negotiation. You will also be taken on a tour of Cambridge, attend a session on applying for Law at Cambridge, and have chance to visit some of the Colleges. The first evening is a social event, and later during the week there is a debate in the Cambridge Union between high-profile barristers and a mock trial.
There is a charge for this conference: it costs £150, which includes all meals, accommodation, lectures , workshops and tours. If you need advice on funding for this, there is an email address to write to so do look into it on the applications page.
Interested? Please read the full details and fill in the application form on the Cambridge Law Conference website (do read the Student Reviews in particular!).
Why Study Economics?
Are you considering university courses in Economics? If so, do explore the Economics Network's website:
The website has a useful blog too!
Our own Chapel at King's is a fascinating mix of religion, politics, history, art and architecture.
Have you ever thought about the relationship between religion and other subjects that you might study?
- History: Consider the impact of religious change on a society prior to 1900;
- Literature: Reflect on whether literary criticism requires a knowledge of sacred texts;
- Philosophy: Comment on the relationship between mortality and religion;
- Politics: Explore the idea of secularism and national politics;
- Science: Address the relationship between religion and a topic from the natural sciences;
- Sociology: Consider how an awareness of religion helps understandings of multiculturalism.
Cambridge Divinity Faculty encourages sixth formers to research and think about one of the topics above in a team of up to four 16-19 year olds. The challenge is to produce a film lasting no more than five minutes in response to your chosen topic. This should be academic in content, but the film could take any form: debates, documentaries or responses with artistic elements are all welcome.
If you are interested, do read the further details on the Divinity Faculty website. The deadline is Friday 14 November 2014.
The X Factor: Multidisciplinary (and Interdisciplinary) Approaches to Classics
Image credit: Ingo Gildenhard
At the recent Classics Faculty Sixth Form Study Days, King's Classicist Ingo Gildenhard explained how multidisciplinary approaches to Classics underpins teaching and learning at Cambridge.
The Classics Faculty is divided into caucuses, each of which brings a different approach to the study of Classics: Caucus A (Literature); Caucus B (Philosophy); Caucus C (History); Caucus D (Art and Archaeology) and Caucus E (Linguistics).
Dr. Gildenhard gave an example of how his colleagues in different caucuses each brought a different approach to the study of Ovid's Ars Amatoria [The Art of Love] in a recent lecture series:
- A: Poetics, or: The (S)expert at Work
- B: Sexual Ethics [gender relations, feminist readings]
- C: The Empire Strikes Back [Ovid and Augustus, the politics of the Ars, Ovid’s banishment to the Black Sea]
- D: Sex and the City [Ovid and the monuments, his rewriting of Rome’s urban topography]
- E: The Language of Love (and Sex) [how can we understand the different range of meanings of Latin words to English dictionary equivalents - does raptor mean ‘rapist’ or ‘seducer’? and how does it relate to rapina and rapio?]
The students and academics gain enormously from exploring these multidisciplinary perspectives. If and when they combine two or more approaches to address a particular topic, thereby transcending any one discipline, their work becomes interdisciplinary.
For this reason, King's Classicist John Henderson and his colleague Geoffrey Lloyd pioneered an X Caucus (Interdisciplinary) in the 1980s, to allow and encourage Cambridge students and academics to cross disciplines in their study of the Classics.
Multidisciplinarity is not restricted to Classics! You will be able to find multidisciplinary (and interdisciplinary) approaches to almost any topic. Have you got the X Factor? Think of a topic that has caught your attention in one of your A Level subjects and ask yourself what your knowledge and skills in your other A Level subjects can bring to it.
Mythologies (Roland Barthes)
In 1957, Roland Barthes published Mythologies, in which he discussed the workings of 'myths' in the society of his time. Drawing on ideas from semiotics (the theory of how signs and symbols work), and in particular the work of Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure, Barthes was able to use language-like structures to study the social culture around him.
If you would like to read Mythologies, the most useful part for understanding what Barthes is doing is the second part (The Myth Today), in which he explains how myths form a communication system and what the value is of thinking about them in this way (how does it help us to understand the myths?). It gets a bit technical in places, so if there is more detail than you want, just take from it what you find useful. You might then like to look at some of the examples that Barthes gives in the first part of his book. NB. You will notice that Barthes's analyses are often political - they focus especially on the ways that bourgeois society uses myth to impose values on others.
One difficulty for modern readers of Barthes's work is that his examples are drawn from the fifties - they can be difficult for us to relate to. Radio 4 is currently running a series called 21st Century Modern Mythologies, in which Barthes's techniques are used to dissect contemporary myths. Do listen to some of the programmes and see what you think:
Suggestion for further reading:
Freshers' reading groups
There's a great atmosphere in College as we help the new students to settle in.
Amongst the many activities that take place in Freshers' Week to settle new students into the College community, there are discussion groups in which tutors and students across all subjects meet to discuss a book that everybody has read in advance. This year's book is:
Monbiot is a journalist and activist who read Zoology at University. He presents his book as a polemic for "positive environmentalism". The book consists of a series of essays designed to promote the cultural and economic change that will be necessary to precede any ecological shift. On some level Feral is a radical book with a radical argument, however the question for the King's freshers is how substantial, how convincing is Monbiot's argument and his evidence, and how much of it is the ideological enchantment of a liberal public intellectual?
If you fancy reading this book for yourself, you may be interested to think about how Monbiot establishes the veracity of his claims. How scientific is his thesis of "rewilding"? Does the book survive the lengthy anecdotal descriptions of his natural encounters, enchanting though they are? And is it telling that Monbiot is male, enjoys risky outdoor activity and has his moment of epiphany when he slings a dead deer over his shoulders and carries it home? Do you think that he would have a different environmentalism if he weren't so enamored by the wild in him? Or should we be cautious about any dismissal of his honesty? He discusses the effects of logging and mining on Yanomami lands at some length (and spent a fair amount of his own time experiencing it) - it is fair to say that his "rewilding" is borne of some knowledge of different cultural ecologies? Finally, do you think that we should be encouraged by this book, or discouraged?
Year 12 Shadowing Scheme 2015
Find out for yourself what living and studying at Cambridge is really like
If you are in Year 12 at a UK school and nobody from your family has studied at university / not many from your school have got places at Oxford and Cambridge, you might like to find out more by applying for a place on the CUSU Shadowing Scheme.
If you get a place, you would be invited to spend a few days in Cambridge, living in one of the Colleges and "shadowing" a current student studying the subject that you are interested in, that is, going to lectures, supervisions, social activities etc with them. It's a really good way to get a taste of what studying here is really like so do read the details if you think that you might be eligible to apply.
Social Sciences at Cambridge Festival of Ideas
The Cambridge Festival of Ideas is a full programme of mostly free events encouraging you to explore the arts, humanities and social sciences, meet academics and students, and engage with the University.
Festival events in the social sciences include:
Posted: 13 September 2014
It's Open Cambridge this weekend with talks, walks and themed tours, including:
Posted: 11 September 2014
Choosing school subjects
For Cambridge Economics, Maths is required and Further Maths is very helpful where available.
If you have just started Year 11 (15-16 year olds), you will soon need to start thinking about which subjects you will take next year.
If you would like to study at a selective university such as Cambridge or another university in the Russell Group, it is especially important to make sure that you choose subjects that will give you good preparation for courses that you may want to apply for. You may already have a favourite subject that you can research, but don't worry if you don't know yet - the advice about making well-informed choices will help to put you in the best position for when you choose a university course later on.
As well as the subjects you already do at school, it is worth remembering that there are a lot more courses available that you start new at university - the perfect course for you may be something you've not thought of yet!!
To help you with this process:
Posted: 10 September 2014
Law in Action
If you are interested in studying Law at university, it can be helpful to get some feel for the law in action, for example by observing a local court in session. You could visit your local Magistrates' and/or County Courts (or regional equivalent, such as the Sheriff Court in Scotland).
Even the very highest and grandest courts, such as the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand and the Supreme Court (Parliament Square), are open to the public.
Economic Success Drives Language Extinction
Uluru, Northern Territory, Australia, named by the local Pitjantjatjara people. The Pitjantjatjara language is classified as vulnerable by UNESCO. Image credit: Sjoerd van Oosten.
A new study has revealed that economic growth and globalisation are driving the loss of minority languages.
The researchers, including Cambridge Zoologist Tatsuya Amano, used the criteria for defining endangered species (as defined by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature) to measure the rate and extent of language loss. They then analysed the geographical distribution of the endangered languages in order to draw conclusions about how and why they have gone into decline. Dr. Amano explained that:
As economies develop, one language often comes to dominate a nation's political and educational spheres. People are forced to adopt the dominant language or risk being left out in the cold - economically and politically.
The researchers argue that conservation efforts should therefore be focused on minority languages in more economically developed regions, such as northwestern North America and northern Australia.
Read the researchers' findings in full in Tatsuya Amano et al, 'Global Distribution and Drivers of Language Extinction Risk,' Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 281 (October 2014).
Consult the UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger.
Look into the conservation efforts of the Endangered Language Alliance in New York City and the online Endangered Languages Project. National Geographic's Enduring Voices project has produced eight online talking dictionaries in an effort to conserve minority languages.
- What are the benefits / risks of applying the criteria for defining endangered species to minority languages?
- How best can minority languages be protected? Or should they be protected at all?
As well as the podcasts, there is also a book. Credit: Mark Larson (cropped)
Philosophy Bites is a good source of short interview podcasts with professional philosophers on all kinds of topics.
Recent interviews include:
If there is a particular area that interests you, you may like to look at this list organised by theme.
Law Virtual Classroom
If you want to study Law at university and have not studied the subject formally before, you might enjoy Pembroke College's virtual classroom.
Through exercises in the Understanding Law and Legal Skills sections, this resource aims to give you a better understanding of the nature and function of law, as well as some of the debates that surround the law. It will also help you to develop some of the skills involved in studying and practising law.
If you live too far away to visit Cambridge
Different people need different facilities. This is one of the treadmills in the King's Vaults gym.
It is not unusual to make a successful application without ever having set foot in Cambridge. Don't worry if it is not practical for you to visit as there is no requirement to do so.
Since we welcome applicants who live a long way from Cambridge, we do our best to ensure that all the infomation that you need to make a strong application is on our website (see the relevant subject page and how to apply in particular), as well as virtual tours and the life and facilities sections so that you can get a sense of King's as a place:
We also have a dedicated page for if you don't feel very well supported for your application, and the student perspectives are particularly useful.
Cambridge College Open Days for Year 13
The Porters' Lodge, just inside the entrance of King's on King's Parade
If you are planning to apply to Cambridge this October and would like to attend a College Open Day, do see this page for the events available.
Here at King's, we welcome bookings for our open afternoon on Tuesday 16 September - see our open days page for details and the form.
If you are visiting other Colleges and would like to see King's on the same day, do introduce yourself at the porters' lodge and say that you will be applying to Cambridge. The porters will be happy to let you walk around the public areas, and you might find our self-guided tour useful so that you know what you are looking at. NB if there is a 'College Closed' sign at the front gate, please don't be put off as this just means that tourists cannot enter.
If you are visiting Cambridge on your own, you might also enjoy the Following in the Footsteps audio tour.
Young Geographer of the Year Competition
The annual Young Geographer of the Year Competition is run by the Royal Geographical Society in conjunction with Geographical Magazine. There are four categories for different age groups including 14-16 (Years 10 and 11) and 16-18 (Years 12 and 13), as well as younger pupils.
This year's question is: How can Geography help you?
- Students in Years 10 and 11 are asked to produce an annotated diagram or map to answer the question
- Students in Years 12 and 13 are asked for a 1,500 word essay, which can include illustrations, maps or graphs.
The deadline for entries is Friday 24 October 2014.
If you might like to enter, please read the full information on the Royal Geographical Society website.
Have you read George Orwell's Animal Farm (first published in England in 1945)? It is just under 100 pages and is widely available in local libraries - why not read the book (or listen to it) without reading anything about it, and see what you make of it. Can you briefly jot down your impressions of what is important in the book? If you are able to get to a local library, you could then do some research about what other people have written on the themes in it.
- George Orwell, Animal Farm (Penguin, 1996)
Biologising the Social Sciences
Spoiling for a fight? Credit: driki
Academics have increasingly turned to evolutionary explanations for the human condition, variously arguing that:
- The male human face has evolved to withstand fist fights. See David R. Carrier and Michael H. Morgan, ‘Protective buttressing of the hominin face,’ Biological Reviews (2014).
- Babies cry at night to prevent parents further procreating, resulting in potential sibling rivals. See David Haig, ‘Trouble Sleep: Night waking, breastfeeding and parent-offsprng conflict,’ Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health, 2014 (2014), 32-39.
- Teen boys develop acne on their faces to deter females from fertile but psychologically immature mates. See Dale F. Bloom, ‘Is acne really a disease?’ Medical Hypotheses, 62 (2004), 462-469.
You can find out more about evolutionary psychology and explore more of its theories in Evolutionary Psychology, an open-access, peer-reviewed journal showcasing work across the human sciences.
But are there limits to the explanatory power of evolution? David Canter, Professor of Psychology at the University of Huddersfield, thinks so. He made a trenchant case against biologising the social sciences in David Canter, ‘Challenging neuroscience and evolutionary explanations of social and psychological processes,’ Contemporary Social Science, 7 (2012), 92-115.
You can listen to David Canter debate the issues with Alice Roberts, Professor of Public Engagement in Science at the University of Birmingham, on Radio 4's Inside Science programme (the item begins at 18 minutes).
How far would you take evolutionary explanations of human behaviour?
One of the things that interviewers look for is genuine interest. Image credit: THX0477
We interview most people who apply to Cambridge (more than 80%). It is in interviews that subject specialists are able to work with you directly, see how you think and work, and really explore your academic potential for the course that you've applied for.
We hope that you will find the following new Cambridge University film useful, and we particularly hope that it will put any summer work that you are doing to develop your interests into context!
Girl Summit 2014
The Girl Summit 2014 was held in London yesterday, focusing on domestic and international efforts to end female genital mutilation and child, early and forced marriage.
World Health Organisation factsheet on Female Genital Mutilation
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: A statistical overview and exploration of the dynamics of change
Girl Summit 2014:
How should an anthropologist study female genital mutilation?
- Edward J. Hedican, 'Genital Mutilation: The Relativist Dilema' in Edward J. Hedican, Social Anthropology: Canadian Perspectives on Culture and Society (Canadian Scholars’ Press, 2012), pp. 18-20.
- New World Encyclopedia contributors, 'Ethnography', in New World Encyclopedia (3 April 2008)
- Ellen Gruenbaum, The Female Circumcision Controversy: An Anthropological Perspective (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001)
- Joy Hendry and Simon Underdown, Anthropology: A Beginner's Guide (Oxford: Oneworld Publications, 2012)
How well do you know your local area?
Berwick upon Tweed, Northumberland. Image credit: Laszlo Ilyes
The Office for National Statistics has produced an interesting survey based on the 2011 census.
If you live in England or Wales, do have a look:
Further ways of exploring the census data are available in:
Tony Blair: Twenty Years On
Twenty years ago today Tony Blair was elected leader of the Labour Party. Read his first speech on becoming leader and his latest speech reflecting on the twentieth anniversary of his election.
Key figures and commentators from the Blair years have been reflecting on Blair's legacy in the newspapers:
- John McTernan, 'Tony Blair: his legacy will be debated but not forgotten,' Telegraph, 20 July 2014
- John Rentoul, 'Two decades on, what is Tony Blair's legacy worth,' Independent, 20 July 2014
- Michael White, 'Twenty Years of Tony Blair: totting up the balance sheet,' Guardian, 21 July 2014
You could follow up on these assessments by reading more about Tony Blair in his own words...
... and in the view of political scienitsts:
How have assessments of Tony Blair's leadership and legacy changed over the course of the past twenty years and why?
Trainers, pumps, plimsolls or daps?
Plimsolls? No, daps. Credit: dave
How do you refer to the appropriate footwear for a PE class? Trainers, pumps, plimsolls, or daps? The word you use almost certainly reflects where you live, or where you grew up.
Researchers in Linguistics can use lexical variation (our choice of words or phrases), phonological variation (the way in which we pronounce certain words), and syntactic variation (the way in which we construct sentences) to draw maps of dialect variation, such as those produced by the Multilingual Manchester project.
King's teacher and researcher Bert Vaux and his colleague Scott Golder created a dialect survey whilst he was at Harvard in 2002 which went viral when it was featured in the New York Times last year. Bert says:
"What's been most exciting about the newest viral episode is the demonstration over a pool of several million test subjects that it is possible to identify the regional origins of English speakers just from subtle lexical 'tells.'"
You can hear Bert discussing the latest success of the survey and the conclusions he drew from it on National Public Radio (NPR) in the U.S. in February.
If you'd like to contribute to Bert's ongoing research, you can take the Cambridge Online Survey of World Englishes now.
The Euro and Its Impact
What does economics tell us about the operation of single currency areas and currency unions (such as the Eurozone)?
This is one of the questions that the Euro and Its Impact resource asks you to consider. This pdf was produced by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), and is designed for sixth formers with an interest in economic affairs and policy. It provides information on the topic as well as suggestions for further reading.
If you would like to find out more about the Institute of Economic Affairs and what it does, do have a look at its IEA website. If you have a particular area of interest, you may find the policy areas section useful for finding relevant material.
Trinity College's Robson History Prize (Year 12)
What is to be gained by studying the histories of seas or oceans?
Image credit: AvidlyAbide
If you are interested in History (including historical aspects of a wide range of courses from Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic to Economics, Philosophy and Theology) why not think about some of the questions that Trinity College has set for their Robson History Prize? There's a wide choice of 59 titles, so you are bound to find a topic that you would enjoy studying.
Here are just a few of them:
- What was the role and influence of Queens in Anglo-Saxon England?
- Was the Hundred Years War really a single conflict?
- What were the causes of the European ‘witchcraze’ in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries?
- What sort of a revolution was the French revolution?
- How did the Atlantic slave trade affect state formation and economic growth in West Africa?
- Why was the Spanish civil war so bloody?
- ‘The Attlee government’s failure to create a socialist commonwealth was as much due to ideological shortcomings as economic constraints.’ Discuss.
- To what extent do market forces pose a threat to the accuracy of popular history?
- Is the goal of Aristotle’s Politics to arrive at a theory of the best state?
If you would like to work on an essay to enter in the competition, the deadline is 1 August and do make sure that you read the full details (including the full list of titles) on Trinity College's website before you start. If you don't have chance or don't want to do that, do have a look at the titles nonetheless as there's plenty of inspiration for research and thought.
Summer Reading (and Writing)
As you break up for the vacation, you may be resolving to read through the pile of books that has built up on your bedside table during a busy academic year. But how do you make your summer reading count? As the University of Cambridge advises its students:
Reading for a degree requires different reading skills to reading for pleasure. Developing understanding through reading needs to be an active process, whereby you engage with the text, question and develop your ideas in response to it.
Listen to Hanna Weibye (one of the King's Fellows in History) making a similar point, when she recommends that you read as widely and as critically as possible.
The University of Southampton, the University of Manchester, and the Open University all offer useful advice on how to read in an engaged way.
One way to read effectively is to... write! Once you've read a text, why not write and share a review of it? The Wellcome Trust blog offers advice on how to write a news story from a scientific paper. The Guardian's Blogging Students advise on how to blog.
World population day
It was World Population Day this week (11 July). Here are some of the articles published:
Pierre Bourdieu: What affects our tastes?
For Bourdieu, cultural consumption is 'an act of deciphering, decoding, which presupposes practical or explicit mastery of a cipher'. Renoir image credit: freeparking
How much is taste shaped by education and social influences? Pierre Bourdieu was a French sociologist, anthropologist and philosopher who looked into these questions, most famously in his 1975 book, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste.
In the introduction, Bourdieu writes:
Taste classifies, and it classifies the classifier. Social subjects, classified by their classifications, distinguish themselves by the distinctions they make, between the beautiful and the ugly, the distinguished and the vulgar, in which their position in the objective classifications is expressed or betrayed.
Bourdieu collected information through questionnaires which asked people questions about their tastes in art, literature, music etc. For example, he compared preferences for different musical pieces and charted these against information about each particpant's social background:
Bourdieu's text includes diagrams and charts which plot his results and show correlations that he found in the data. A key idea in this book is that of 'cultural capital', that is, 'assets' that people acquire, such as education and cultural experience, which can affect social mobility regardless of financial means.
If you have the opportunity to look at Bourdieu's work, do have a think about this way of looking at taste. Do you agree / disagree / recognise aspects of it? Can you think of any examples in modern culture and society? What do you think of the way that Bourdieu collected and used his data? Does his work have wider implications for questions of taste, sociology and identity?
Last chance to book for Cambridge Law Open Day!
The Law Faculty reception area
If you'd like to book a place on a Cambridge Law Faculty Open morning or afternoon on Wednesday 2 July, do send your booking form as soon as possible. The deadline for the faculty to receive your form is Wednesday 25 June (you need to post or email the information).
The 2014 Cambridge Open Days Programme is published!
The large Cambridge Open Days are on Thurs 3 and Fri 4 July. This event is for students who are considering an application in September/October 2014.
Do explore the 2014 Cambridge Open Days programme for details of course presentations and sample lectures in your subject, College opening times and locations. If you are interested in visiting a particular College, their website will normally have more detail. At King's, we're open from 9 until 5.30pm as part of the Cambridge Open Days, and we invite you to join tours of the College, subject meetings (students only for those) and chat with current students and admissions staff. See the details for Thurs 3 July and for Fri 4 July.
Booking is required. Although there are no general places left for the Cambridge Open Days, there are still plenty of places available for students who book to attend a College Open Day (you will also be able to attend Cambridge Open Day events in the afternoon) or a North East Welcome Event (please email us for details if you're from the North East). Please see the information about how to attend the Cambridge Open Days now that registration has closed.
We hope to see you there! If you can't attend, don't worry though, as the information that you need to make a successful application is also available online, and you are welcome to email us with any questions.
Gender in Japanese Studies - Free book for your school library?
A book of undergraduate dissertations was published last year, exploring emerging and divergent gender issues in Japan. It is called Manga Girl Seeks Herbivore Boy: Studying Japanese Gender at Cambridge, and it offers some fascinating insights into modern Japanese culture and society, as well as a great way to get a flavour of the kinds of material that you could study if you choose Japanese in the Asian and Middle Eastern Studies course (even if you've never studied Japanese before!). To find out more about the book, read the news article.
In order to introduce Japanese Studies, the department is offering a free copy to 50 school libraries. Why not ask your school librarian to click here for further information and the request form!
What's on Radio 4?
If you're interested in economics, politics or sociology, recent programmes available on bbc iplayer radio include:
To find other programmes, do explore the Radio 4 website.
Are you struggling to access Radio 4? Click on 'How to listen' in the menu on the left of this help section. If you are outside the UK, see the iplayer access information.